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Anxiety Support
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Can't Relax or Focus On Breathing

Hi tonight. I have been told here and in other places that anxiety is just adrenalin for no reason other than fear. That a person should relax or calm themselves then the adrenalinn, the "fight or flight" response will fade. They even say to focus on your breathing and take deep breaths. Well, for me none of that works. It is when I am relaxed, sleepy even, that I get these feelings of panic. Sometimes my heart will race or pound too hard, sometimes it feels like it is barely beating. Sometimes I feel I have no energy, that my blood pressure is almost non-existent, and I get really, crazy cold...I mean freezing cold. And it's not cold where I live in San Diego, CA, USA. I was in a car where it was 71 degrees and it felt like 40 to me! I also feel like I am not breathing automatically, so thinking about my breathing just makes my anxiety worse, because then I feel like I am in control of it and must stay up all night to make sure I breathe. So I am not feeling a rush of adrenalin when I panic at night (during the day is different), i actually feel the opposite, like a lack of adrenalin or energy. So I can't "relax," I can't be sedated, and I can't focus on my breathing, I am already relaxed and focusing on my breathing makes things worse. So what do I do?

By the way, the constant urge to sigh/ take a deep breath is really driving me crazy and keeping me up. I know I don't have to do it physically, I think it is a habit or my body or mind is addicted to all the air it brings in. I get this empty, almost itchy feeling in the middle of my chest by the base of my sternum and it feels like the only thing that relieves it is to take a deep breath and have my chest expand. Then I get to the point to where I am doing this a lot, every few seconds, and if I don't I feel like I'm not getting enough air. The experts and some here say it is the way I am breathing, that I need to just balance the co2 in my lungs by breathing through my nose, but I have never breathed through my nose before (due to chronic sinusitis and a possible deviated septum) so when I try to do that I have to breather even deeper and harder and really work at it. What the heck do I do? I am going crazy! What are your thoughts?

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Put on a comedy movie,that's what I do and I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks,I use to be so bad 4 months ago and still struggle sometimes but god and comedies have brought me a long way. Well your so busy praying or laughing you don't have time to think about what is wrong with you much less your breathing. I had a psychiatrists 4 months ago that tried that breathing therapy with me and it only made it worse cause I would think "is my breathing to shallow,am I gonna stop breathing,is it to fast,what if for some reason I can't catch my breath". I tried telling her I needed some other way and she swore by only the breathing therapy so needless to say I stopped going to her. Then a I just kept praying and a friend asked if I tried comedy movies which I thought"are you stupid,I feel like I'm dying and your talking about trying movies" but that's when they made since by saying "have you ever seen a person that is so into a funny movie sit and think is this symptom good or bad and is my breathing ok,no because they are to busy laughing" Hope this helps

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Thank you, I do that. I leave the TV on all night on my favorite comedy show in case I wake up in a panic or can't sleep. And if I am panicky I try to watch or just listen to it to get my mind off my panic. I also have a computer game called SimCity where you really need to focus on it to be successful (building your own cities.) Unfortunately, sometimes I have to do this all night until my body finally gives up and I fall asleep automatically, which only gives me a few hours of sleep a night. Or I wake up at 2 am in panic and have to watch TV and play my game to calm down again. This really screws up my job performance because I start early (7 am). This has to stop soon or I could lose my job at some point (I actually had a nightmare about that) and it is messing up my once very active social life. But thank you again, Hateanxiety.

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I am so sorry you are going through this,when I first got diagnosed I was a wreak. I thought I was doing insanei, I actually got so bad I was about to check myself into a mental ward, I was unable to eat,sleep,neck I couldn't even get in the shower without fear that I would some how die in there and my kids would find me. I went to doctor after doctor,tried multiple medications that did nothing for me,counseling again no help. I just prayed for strength to help through this storm,and watched funny movies. Now don't get me wrong I still struggle sometimes but,all my anxiety and panic is on one thing now and that's my choking phobia and my throat,I think it's a big accomplishment from where I started though.

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I can relate to the heart part. Sometimes i feel like i am more aware of my heartbeat which is terrifying for me to feel and then other times it feel like it stops and skip a couple of beats. This usually happens right at bed time when I'm trying to fall asleep.

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Cforte, I think you are worrying too much about your breathing and it's becoming a bit of an obsession which is causing you problems.

Breathing is something your nervous system does for you, you don't have to consciously breathe, you're body is wired to make you breathe automatically. You're engaging in too much introspection about breathing so let go and let your nervous system take over, it won't let you go short of oxygen. You really don't have to sit up all night to make sure you breathe!

I think you should talk your symptoms over with a doctor as there's a very small chance it could be something like your thyroid, just for your own reassurance though because everything you've described sounds like anxiety to me.

I get breathlessness as an anxiety symptom from time to time, I've had it the last few days but I know it's anxiety because my blood oxygen is 97% and when I take half a diazepam tranquilliser the breathlessness stops.

So I'd say defocuss on the breathing thing, it's stressing you out with worry, let your body control your breathing, your help isn't necessary. Attach less importance to it, accept the bad feelings for the moment, they will pass when you recover from your high anxiety.

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I agree with this totally. It is also worth noting that breathing deeply can give you too much oxgen and too little carbon dioxide which can make you feel dizzy. If this happens breathe into a paper bag to raise your CO2 levels.

i get the feeling of breathlessness too, and racing heart. I find going for a short walk can ease it. Sitting in the house dwelliing on stuff makes it worse. I believe yoga can help too but I do not feel up to joining a group yet.

Waking in the night with a pounding heart can be due to raised adrenalin levels. We do not stop noticing things when we are asleep, or our subconscious mind can trigger a panic reaction if we are not sleeping deeply. Playing a radio on low can help stop small noises causing us to react as the brain gets used to the noise.

Basically treat yourself like a small child who needs a nightlight, a musical tune, a bedtime story etc to help them get to sleep and stave off night terrors. Even that cup of cocoa before bed can be helpful. much better than alcohol which only disrupts sleep and can add to your anxiety.

I have found Melatonin helpful in getting off to sleep without giving me side effects, but an audio book has also helped a lot. Playing the same one over and over means you do not need to listen hard as you already know the story.

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Thank you, but walking actually makes my breathing anxiety worse.

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Then you must walk often as it will give you the opportunity to practice accepting your anxiety symptoms calmly and with the minimum of fear. You will not recover by hiding from the situations that cause you anxiety. You must enter the storm and pass through it fully accepting all the bad feelings for the time being. And do it again and again until you can do things regardless of whether you feel anxious or not because you have learnt to accept or co-exist with the symptoms of anxiety FOR THE MOMENT. At that point anxiety is a nuisance, it's not pleasant, but you no longer fear it. And because you no longer fear it you no longer flood your nervous system with the hormones of fear and stress that have been keeping your nerves in an oversensitive state.

If walking causes the symptoms of anxiety then enter the storm and pass through it to recovery.

"Do what you fear and the death of fear is assured." -Norman Vincent Peale, 20th century American philosopher, author of 'The Power of Positive Thinking".

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I agree breathlessness comes on through anxiety .

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Yes, what Findingme says about breathing too deeply depletes our bodies of CO2 and causes over oxygen saturation causing dizziness is well worth remembering.

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I don't get dizzy or light-headed, so rationally I know I am breathing fine and getting enough air. But even when I am breathing regularly (not fast like after a run), I still feel like I can't catch my breath and need to take a deep breath. Could this be obsessive compulsive behavior? I just have a compulsion to do something I physically and rationally don't need to do? yet it feels so natural, like I can't breathe if I don't do it....I've tried some breathing techniques, I tried forgetting about it, I tried fighting the urge and not giving in to it...so far nothing has worked. It gets worse when I do any physical activity, no matter how little, like chewing or just moving my head. And again, I am not breathing fast or rapidly like hyperventilating, I am breathing regularly, yet I still feel like I can't catch my breath.

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cmfsd, you could be holding your breath. Many of us do it without even realizing. That causes shortness of breath

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Tension can cause issues with your diaphragm, which is the muscular layer between your lungs and intestines., making it feel as if you are suffocating. You can also hold tension in your intercostal muscles of your ribs. This will add to the feeling that you cannot catch your breath. Doing Yoga and other exercise can help release this tension, however I do understand that at first it might seem as if it is not helping. Try it anyeway and see if things get better with practise.

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I totally agree on all of what you said, unfortunately anxious people tend to jump to it being a problem with their lungs or their heart.

Good advice...x

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Cmfsd, I don't know if you've talked to your doctor about this but for your reassurance you should if you haven't already. He or she will be able to check your blood oxygen level to ensure your lungs are working fine and also check your heart. Please don't get more anxious because I say that as it's very unlikely to be heart or lungs but it's important to rule them out.

When it's confirmed that it's anxiety it's important to stop "fighting the urge" as you put it because fighting only causes more stress, strain and tension and your over-sensitive nervous system needs less not more of that.

You need to accept the feeling utterly in the full knowledge that this is your nerves playing tricks and not some organic problem. Accept the bad feelings for the time being knowing your not going short of oxygen however you feel. Just accept them with as much calm as you can muster and react with the least amount of fear so as to stop flooding your nervous system with more fear and anxiety hormones.

It's these hormones that are keeping your nerves sensitised. So I say again, stop fighting and start accepting the feeling and just let your whole body go limp when the bad feelings come. This is the complete opposite to fighting.

We win not by the punches we give but by the punches we take.

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That's the problem though. I do "give in" to these feelings and take a deep breath every few seconds. It is making me very tired and hurting my chest. I can't do anything sometimes but take a deep breath...over and over and over and over....it never ends.....walking or any physical activity no matter how miniscule just makes it worse. It hurts. Breathing deeply, fully expanding my chest so much. Sometimes I think my lungs might just pop because of how much I inflate them, taking a huge, chest-expanding deep breath literally every few seconds all day. I just can't stop. My blood tests just came back and everything is normal, so this must just be anxiety. If so, what the heck do I do? I'm so tired. And it hurts so bad. Help!

(ps: cmfsd is also me cforte. I made two accounts by accident and need to decide which one to close.)

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Cforte, if it were me I would ask my doctor for a short 3-week course of diazepam/valium taking one 2mg three times a day. These much demonised tranquilisers act immediately (rather than other anti-anxiety meds that can take up to 4 weeks to kick in).

This might stop you obsessing about your breathing and relax you and end your need to take breaths and by breaking the habit there's every chance when you stop taking the valium you will still no longer feel the need for extra breaths.

Please don't tell me that you don't like taking meds and are worried about addiction, meds have their place in recovery from anxiety disorder along with talking therapy and self-help methods. Anxiety about taking anti-anxiety meds is just another symptom of anxiety.

The only alternative I can suggest is to practice accepting your need to voluntarily take breaths for the time being and do so calmly without adding extra fear to your oversensitised nerves. The Acceptance method for recovery from all forms of anxiety is described in a famous book written many years ago by Doctor Claire Weekes titled 'Hope and help with your nerves' available from Amazon. I recommend it.

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Hi, this is also Cforte. I need to close one account so I don't confuse people, but I'm not sure which one to close yet. No, I am not afraid to try meds, even the ones you mentioned. But my doctor is worried that they could make me too relaxed and not wake up to breathe if I do have sleep apnea (sleep apnea is when you stop breathing in your sleep for a few minutes. The majority of the time, your body wants air so bad that when it happens it will wake you up just enough to start breathing again. In most people, they don't even notice it. But in someone like me with heightened anxiety and a heightened sense of their own body, it may wake you all the way up and could be why you wake up in a panic, feeling like you can't breathe.) Anyways....my doctor is afraid I would be too relaxed and not wake up during my sleep apnea. I'm not trying to scare anyone, I'm not sure how correct that is, but he wants me to do a sleep study first, one I may not be able to afford. But even if I do have sleep apnea, I also get these panic attacks, maybe they wouldn't be dangerous if I took diazepam/valium earlier in the day and not right before I go to bed? And thank you, Jeff1943.

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Btw, "cmfsd" is also me. I don't know how it happened but I must have made two different accounts by accident.

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